Cultivation and Production
Tea harvesting is hard work.
It is mainly women who pluck tea. Women are said to be more skilled pluckers compared to men, due to their more detailed plucking.
They pick only the top leaves which are the ones that give the best flavor.
Men tend to be too rough in their plucking. A trained tea plucker can pick between 30 and 35 kg of top leaves per day.
For the most beautiful teas, you pick “two leaves and a bud” – the middle leaf and the top two side leaves. Legend says that the best Darjeeling Teas – “The Champagne of Teas” – are picked with a virgin hand in the early morning.
There is a big difference between how much and how often a harvest takes place. In the low located areas, they harvest the entire year, while they only harvest four times a year on the slopes of the Himalayas. First flush, which is the first pluck after the tea bush has rested, is often said to be the best and finest pluck.
The first Darjeeling pluck has always been eagerly awaited in the tea circles, and since the Clipper days it has been the subject of a contest of who was the fastest to bring the First Flush teas home.
Today, often only four or five days pass, from the harvesting of the first pluck and until it reaches Europe.
Few know that all teas descend from one and the same plant. The original botanical term is Camellia Sinensis (L. O Kuntze), and the plant was first discovered in China. The Swedish botanist Carl von Linné was the first to classify the plant, and the Camellia Tea’s Botanical origin, today includes about 40 species of evergreen plants.
Camellia Sinensis is often called The Chinese Plant, and it is cuttings from this plant that has given life to all the species of tea plants we know of today. Camellia Sinensis’ can be up to 5 meters tall, and initially it grew mainly in China, Tibet and Japan, but later on in India and Sri Lanka as well. This plant can advantageously be cultivated for up to 100 years, and it is stable in mountainous areas with cool nights. When we pour water over the leaves from Camellia Sinensis, we are talking about tea.
The leaves of this tea bush are dark green and glossy on the surface. Not seldom flowers grow from the bush, but this flowering is best avoided, since, despite its beauty, it usually provides a less productive harvest. The tea bush also makes a small, nutmeg-like fruit that contains vegetable oil, but this oil is almost never extracted. The leaves are hard and grow best if the climate is hot and humid. Soil is also of great importance for the growth. An acidic soil provides ideal growth conditions for the plant. The daily temperatures should preferably be between 10 and 30 degrees and the rainfall should be approximately 200-250 cm per year. The plant therefore grows best in a tropical and subtropical climate.
The altitude of the sea also has great significance in terms of the flavour complexity. The higher up, the plant grows, the slower the new top leaves grow. The tea bush has no problem with growing at heights at even 2,800 meters. The level of productivity of the harvest is, of course, significantly less, but the quality is often much higher though. The best qualities are the so-called high grown teas, which grow at over 1000 meters in height.
Whether you’re talking about white, green, oolong or black tea, all of it comes from one plant. The result is determined by climate, altitude, soil, season and after-care. The age of the plant also plays a significant role. Older plants usually provide a more complex and interesting bouquet, and certain tea plants can be up to 150 years old.